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They made the U.S. Olympic team, but did not compete

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The U.S. sent 230 athletes to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, but the record book lists 222 competitors.

Eight members of that U.S. Olympic team — the largest by any nation in Winter Games history — did not compete for various reasons.

Some were injured before their event. Others didn’t leave the bench in team sports (one controversially). One more lost an internal competition for a starting spot before the Opening Ceremony.

As the U.S. team of more than 200 athletes for PyeongChang begins to take shape, a look at what happened to those eight from Sochi:

Erik Fisher, Alpine Skiing
Fisher went to both the 2010 and 2014 Olympics but didn’t compete at either Games.

The world’s best Alpine nations often bring more downhill skiers than they have starting spots (four) in the Olympics. Then they use training runs before the medal race to determine who gets the last spot or two behind their top medal favorites.

In 2010, Fisher went to the Olympics with a broken right hand and lost out on the last downhill spot to Steven Nyman.

In 2014, Fisher went to the Olympics with a left knee injury and again lost out to Nyman in training runs.

“I was knocked out in the qualifying run, and the coaches used the last discretion spot for Steven Nyman,” was posted on Fisher’s social media the day of the Sochi Opening Ceremony. “Once again I had to fight thru an injury to try and make the final 4 spots and could not quite do it. I tweaked my knee a few weeks back and had to get a cortisone shot to help fight the pain. Tomorrow I will be getting an MRI to see the damage in left knee. I gave it my all and I’m proud of what I accomplished. It was so amazing to see the support of Family, Friends and the Community. I can’t possibly thank you enough! Nyman is a very good friend of mine and I hope he kills it!”

Fisher last raced in April 2014. The U.S. Alpine team for PyeongChang will be named next month, possibly with skiers who will have to earn starts in training runs.

Allison Pottinger, Curling
After four-person teams win the U.S. Olympic Curling Trials, they typically have a week or two for adding a fifth member as an alternate.

Pottinger qualified for the 2010 Olympics outright and played for Debbie McCormick‘s team in Vancouver. Four years later, Pottinger skipped her own team, made it to the Olympic Trials finals and lost to Erika Brown‘s team. Twelve hours after that, Brown asked Pottinger to be her alternate.

Over the last three Olympics, three of the six alternates for U.S. curling teams ended up playing. Alternates can replace any member of the team before any game and be subbed back out for later games. They can also enter mid-game as injury replacements.

Their duties are scouting other teams and “matching rocks,” throwing competition stones after the completion of play in preparation for the next day’s games to gauge their variance.

During games, alternates typically sit with coaches on a bench about 20 feet from the ice sheet.

While men’s alternate Craig Brown (Erika’s younger brother) did see game action in Sochi, Pottinger did not as Brown’s team went 1-8 and finished last out of 10 teams.

“I thought about it going in, and I kind of set myself with the mindset that I wasn’t going to play,” Pottinger said. “You don’t get your hopes up. I know that sounds bad. I know those girls [on Brown’s team] well enough that they want to play every game. They won to get there [to the Olympics] as a team.”

At least Pottinger had her Olympic competition experience in 2010. She regretted that the alternate on her Vancouver Olympic team — Tracy Sachtjen — didn’t get into a game (that team also finished in last place).

“It wasn’t until literally two ends into the last game where I kind of thought to myself, wait a second [about Sachtjen],” said Pottinger, a 44-year-old who didn’t compete at this year’s trials. “Tracy was our alternate the whole season. We went in [to the Olympic season] as five. So I think that was probably even harder [than 2014].”

The alternates on the U.S. curling teams for PyeongChang are Joe Polo and Cory Christensen.

Jimmy Howard and Brianne McLaughlin, Hockey
Olympic ice hockey rosters expanded to three goalies for the men in 1998 and the women in 2010. Going into Sochi, Howard and McLaughlin looked like the Nos. 3 on the depth chart.

And with only three group games followed by the playoffs, the likelihood is always high that at least one goalie per team will not play in the Olympics.

McLaughlin was the U.S. No. 3 in both 2010 and 2014.

Months before the 2010 Olympics, U.S. coach Mark Johnson chatted one-on-one with McLaughlin, who was the only one of his three goalies who had no previous world championship experience.

“I was told right off the bat, congrats on making the team, but this is not Brianne McLaughlin’s time,” McLaughlin said. “That was my rookie season. I had never been on the national team before. For me it was, just, this is awesome.”

Johnson allowed McLaughlin to dress for a group-play game against lowly China as the backup to Molly Schaus, who was getting a start in place of No. 1 Jessie Vetter.

As McLaughlin walked out of the locker room, she realized she forgot something. Her contacts.

“I was like, oh, whatever, I’m not going to play anyway,” she said. “Ten minutes left in the game [with the U.S. up 10-0] he kicks my butt to get in there.”

The box score lists McLaughlin giving up one goal on two shots.

“I got made fun of for getting scored on for four years,” she said.

McLaughlin hoped to contribute more in Sochi, but she suffered a groin injury about two months before the Olympics that kept her out for weeks. Vetter and Schaus were again the top two goalies, and this time McLaughlin didn’t play.

She spent the epic Sochi women’s overtime final with Canada from a center-ice seat in the stands. She joined the team in the locker room between periods and even ran down late in the third to dress for the medal ceremony.

“I was standing next to the bench with the other [backup] goalie thinking I was going to run out there to get a gold medal,” she said.

Then Canada scored twice in the final 3 minutes, 26 seconds, to tie it and won in overtime. McLaughlin received a second straight silver medal and retired from the national team a year later.

The U.S. men’s and women’s hockey teams — with three goalies each — will be named Jan. 1.

Heidi Kloser, Moguls
The most publicized of the eight U.S. Olympic team members who did not compete in Sochi.

Kloser tore her right ACL and fractured her femur in training before qualifying on the eve of Opening Ceremony. The news really spread after her father’s Facebook post:

We just got down from the Olympic Village ER where Heidi was taken to after a bad fall in her training run prior to tonight’s Olympic qualifier … Heidi’s doing ok, but there’s moments when the reality of it all hits home, she’s a tough one, but this is a tough one to swallow for all of us! When she was in the ambulance, she asked Emily and me if she was still an Olympian…. We said of course she is!

Teammate Hannah Kearney, the 2010 Olympic moguls champion, said that she was also asked by Kloser whether she was an Olympian.

“I actually made the huge mistake of trying to joke with her too soon after it happened. I didn’t realize how serious she was about that (question),” Kearney said of their conversation hours after Kloser’s injury. “I’m like, well, Heidi, I don’t know. You haven’t competed at the Olympics. And she immediately broke down in tears. I was like, OK, that is not the right thing to say to someone who just had their dreams dashed. I only said that because, my God, of course she earned her spot there.”

The next day, Kloser marched in the Parade of Nations — on crutches after being pushed into Fisht Stadium in a wheelchair.

She needed another knee surgery a year later and has mostly competed on the lower-level Nor-Am Cup circuit since. Kloser is not expected to make the PyeongChang Olympic team.

“If I hadn’t been told that I was an Olympian, I would have put my ski boots on, no matter how bad it hurt, and I would have gone through that start gate,” Kloser said in 2014.

Kyle Carr, Short Track Speed Skating
Carr made the Sochi Olympic team not in any individual races, but only as part of the five-man pool for the 5000m relay.

The relay includes four skaters per country. There is a qualifying round and a final, and skaters can be subbed out between. But they don’t have to be, so Carr flew to Russia without a guarantee of competing. Unlike his four U.S. teammates, who each made it in at least one individual event.

Carr was not chosen for the preliminary round but was told he would be inserted for the final, her mother reportedly said in an NBC affiliate interview.

That didn’t happen. A U.S. coach (or coaches) kept the same foursome for the final.

The U.S. won silver in the relay. The gold and bronze nations didn’t use subs, either, but both the U.S. men’s and women’s medal-winning relays used everyone in 2010.

“I walked out and just sobbed, and thought, ‘I hope that coach feels really good about himself. Really good about himself,’” Carr’s mom reportedly told the NBC affiliate at the relay final. “Because that was how many years of a dream that he just ripped out from Kyle’s feet — after telling him for the last how many days that he was skating the final?”

Carr reportedly retired after competing in the relay at the world championships one month later.

This year, another U.S. man made the Olympic team as a relay-only skater, Ryan Pivirotto.

Maggie Voisin, Ski Slopestyle
Voisin was due to become the youngest U.S. athlete to compete at a Winter Olympics since 1972, two months after turning 15.

But she fractured her right fibula in practice on the day of the Opening Ceremony.

The injury didn’t feel serious at first, but reality set after she got an X-Ray for the first time in her life and saw a crack. Voisin had not been told the diagnosis, but she crutched out of the room, sat next to her physical therapist and cried.

Voisin emailed her parents, but as Team USA marched into the Opening Ceremony that night, she didn’t know if they had gotten word. So she thew away her crutches and footed it.

“I wasn’t ready for them to see that,” Voisin said. “I felt like I was letting not just myself down, but my family, which had traveled that entire way to go there.”

Voisin, with a new set of crutches, stuck around for the ski slopestyle event four days later.

She watched from the bottom, her Sochi 2014 bib tied around her waist, as the women who finished directly behind her at the X Games three weeks earlier made up the medal podium. Voisin later framed the bib.

A fire was lit. She wanted to prove — not just at the next Olympics, but the following season — that she was an Olympian.

Her first contest back was in December 2014. Voisin tore her left ACL and meniscus. Another 13 months out of competition. She returned to Montana, continued home school and attended a prom.

Voisin returned for the 2015-16 season. Fourth at X Games. Second at a World Cup at the PyeongChang Olympic venue.

She was the top American in the first two Olympic qualifiers this year, including a victory. And with X Games champ Kelly Sildaru out for the season with a left knee injury, the gold medal is up for grabs.

“I’m going into PyeongChang with that much more motivation,” Voisin said. “I remember sitting in that hospital [in Russia], thinking, I’m going to do whatever it takes to get back to the Olympics.”

Arielle Gold, Snowboard Halfpipe
Gold dislocated her right shoulder in a practice crash the day of qualifying in Sochi. It was popped back in, but she was unable to compete, saying it was the worst pain she ever felt, according to the Denver Post.

The slushy halfpipe conditions were a topic throughout the Games. Gold believed that played a part in her fall, which came hitting a bump near the pipe’s flat bottom.

“The weather was so warm that the snow wasn’t holding up well,” she said earlier this season. “It got dangerous. You couldn’t see where any bumps were. That’s exactly what happened to me.”

Gold posted video of the crash from the non-televised practice a few days later.

“I actually wanted to watch it,” she said. “I was just getting a lot of messages on social media from friends and family back home about what happened. … I figured that it gave people a little context.”

Gold, the 2013 World champion, made it back to the bottom of the course to watch the final, where two of her American teammates won medals.

“That was the hardest part … feeling like I could be right up there in the mix,” she said. “It wasn’t as much about the medal or the result, but being able to compete.”

Gold tries not to think about Sochi too much, not automatically connect it to her potential PyeongChang story, but she cherishes memories.

Watching the U.S.-Russia men’s hockey game that went to a shootout. Being at the Olympics with brother Taylor, who was eliminated in the men’s halfpipe semifinals. She saved her team gear and an Olympic ring that all U.S. Olympians receive.

Gold is in decent position to make the PyeongChang Olympic team through two of four qualifiers, but she may have to hold off reigning X Games champion Elena Hight and 2006 Olympic champion Hannah Teter.

“Sometimes when I look back on Sochi, a lot of it was, I was a little bit starstruck and didn’t realize I was there. It didn’t seem real,” said Gold, who was 17 years old then. “I hope this time around, if I qualify, I can make the most of the experience.”

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MORE: List of athletes qualified for U.S. Olympic team

Russia track and field athlete clearance frozen due to unpaid fine

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MONACO (AP) — The program allowing Russian track athletes to compete internationally will be frozen because the country’s federation failed to pay a fine on time, World Athletics said Thursday.

The Russian track federation, known as RusAF, owes a $5 million fine and another $1.31 million in costs for various doping-related work and legal wrangles. World Athletics said RusAF missed Wednesday’s deadline to pay.

World Athletics said it would freeze the work of the Doping Review Board, which vets Russian athletes who want the “authorized neutral athlete” status that allows them to compete internationally, and its taskforce monitoring RusAF’s anti-doping reforms.

World Athletics said both bodies will be “put on hold” until its council meets to discuss the situation at the end of July.

“RusAF is letting its athletes down badly,” World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said in a statement. “We have done as much as we can to expedite our ANA process and support RusAF with its reinstatement plan, but seemingly to no avail.”

RusAF president Yevgeny Yurchenko earlier told the Tass state news agency that his federation’s finances were damaged by the coronavirus pandemic and that it had asked for more time to pay.

World Athletics’ statement didn’t directly address that issue, but said Russia hadn’t indicated when it would pay.

Russia was fined $10 million by World Athletics in March, with $5 million suspended for two years, after the federation admitted to breaking anti-doping rules and obstructing an investigation.

The Athletics Integrity Unit said fake documents were used under the previous management to give an athlete an alibi for missing a doping test.

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Jason Brown remains optimistic facing uncertain skating season

Jason Brown
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For Jason Brown, the last figure skating season began and ended with some unexpected challenges.

On Aug. 22, 2019, the day he arrived for U.S. Figure Skating’s pre-season Champs Camp in Irvine, Calif., Brown was a backseat passenger in a vehicle involved in an accident. He sustained a concussion that compromised his training for several weeks and forced him to withdraw from what was to have been his season debut competition.

On March 16, 2020, the day Brown was to fly from his training base in Toronto to the World Championships in Montreal, he went the other direction, driving home to his family’s home in the Chicago suburbs because the world meet had been cancelled five days earlier over Covid-19 health concerns. His most successful competitive season, with silver medals at nationals, the Four Continents Championships and Skate America, left him feeling both fulfilled and unfinished.

Now Brown, 25, is back in Toronto (finally getting there June 23 brought another unexpected challenge). He is undergoing a Canadian government-mandated 14-day self-quarantine before a planned July 8 return to the ice at the Cricket Club to prepare for a season that may not take place.

None of the other foreign stars who train at the Cricket Club, including 2-time reigning Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan and reigning Olympic silver medalist Yevgenia Medvedeva of Russia, is expected back before the end of July, according to his Brown’s primary coach, Tracy Wilson. (Brown also works with Brian Orser, primary coach to Hanyu and Medvedeva.)

We caught up with Brown, the 2014 Olympic team event bronze medalist, by phone at the end of last week for a wide-ranging conversation:

You had an unexpectedly extended family reunion, with your older sister, Jordan, 27, (and her boyfriend), younger brother, Dylan, 22, and your parents, Marla and Steven, all together longer than a week for the first time in nine years. What was that like?

Brown: It was really awesome, even if the circumstances that led to it obviously weren’t ideal. I got to know my siblings on an entirely different level, as adults. We didn’t miss a single family dinner in three months.

Jason Brown
Jason Brown makes pizza (Courtesy Jason Brown).

Who cooked for that crowd every night?

Brown: I did! Jordan (in her first year as Major League Sports Dietician for the Chicago Cubs) had a million Zoom meetings, and Dylan was finishing his undergraduate degree at the University of Illinois and studying for the CPA exam. My dad was still working, and my mom never has liked to cook.

What were your go-to dishes?

Brown: We all eat everything, thank goodness, and we all like Asian cooking. The favorites were a shrimp stir-fry with quinoa and a shrimp salad with cold noodles.

When did you learn to cook?

Brown: Over the past two seasons living in Toronto. But doing it for six instead of one is like anything when you get into a position where it’s sink or swim. I was in charge, and sometimes my sister would ask me to try things she was thinking of recommending to the players. And I used some of my unexpected free time to take some online cooking classes.

What other things did you try with the extra time?

Brown: I never had consistently done dance classes, and I took three (virtual) dance classes a week, working on different choreography and styles: hip-hop, contemporary, modern, Latin. I could feel progress in finding my own way of moving.

You are a relentlessly optimistic person. Was there any time when the uncertainty really got you down?

Brown: The only time was when my (paternal) grandmother died on Mother’s Day. She was 89, and it wasn’t related to Covid, but it was hard on our family not to see her at the end, even if it brought us all together even more.

Did you ever hit a low about when and whether skating was going to be able to come out of this?

Brown: As you said, I’m a very optimistic person. As of now, my goal – and I have always said this since moving to Canada – is the 2022 Winter Olympics. I want this season badly, but my focus is on 2022. I’m trying not to look at what this could possibly mean for the future, but if it snowballs toward 2022, I think we will have a different conversation.

Then it would probably be like what a lot of the 2020 (Summer) Olympians and hopefuls are feeling right now. I can’t let myself get down about it, and I can’t imagine what they are going through. I look at how they are adapting and moving forward. My eyes are set on the ’22 Olympic Games, and we’re not in a place where I’m thinking about those being cancelled.

It seems clear from what you just said the that the possibility of no 2021 season has crossed your mind, and you’re taking a mindset of, “I can deal with that.”

Brown: Yes. Absolutely.

How will it affect you personally and the sport in general if there is no 2020-21 season at all or no international events?

Brown: I know how important the pre-Olympic season is for development and experience. It’s a huge opportunity to learn and grow, to try new things and take on risks before the pressure of the Olympic year. And it’s important just to have the chance to compete against some of the people you will be going against for Olympic team sports.

But I’m looking at the positive. As of now, rinks are open, and we can train. We have the time to fine tune some things we don’t have time to focus on when we are getting ready for competitions.

How will you handle it if you can keep training but they cancel the Grand Prix Series and then maybe nationals and worlds?

Brown: That’s a great question. It is something I would have to re-discuss with my coaches. If we can keep training and the season is cancelled, that’s one thing: we’ll start right then working on programs for the Olympic year. If there is a season, depending what it looks like, we will be strategizing to maximize the competitive opportunities we get.

I’m prepared to move forward if there is no season, if there is a full season or if there is something in between.

Have you thought about what programs you might use if there are events this season, given the lost preparation time? Last year’s? New ones?

Brown: As of now, my coaches want me to keep expanding and work on new programs. Two weeks before the first time I went to cross the border, I was able to work on short programs with choreographer Rohene Ward at the Fox Valley Ice Arena (in Chicago’s west suburbs). We did a couple programs with very different styles – one easier and one more challenging that will take more time to find its rhythm. If I get to compete just once or twice or on short notice, the harder one might not work. (He chose not to provide any details until Orser and Tracy Wilson have seen the programs.)

As far as a free skate, (choreographer) David Wilson and I are still in the thinking stage. We’re waiting for more information about plans for this season.

Wait. You said, “the first time I went to cross the border…”

Brown: (He laughs.) I first tried to do it June 14 at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. (Canada’s current border crossing rules for U.S. citizens require an “essential” reason for entry, which can be a job.) I had some letters, including one from my billet family saying they would shop for me during my quarantine, but the day I arrived, the supervisor I needed to see was not working. They told me to get a hotel in Michigan and return the next day, when they deemed me non-essential. I drove back home, collected letters from U.S. Figure Skating, Skate Canada and Skate Ontario and decided to try June 23 at Buffalo, because (U.S. ice dancers) Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker (who train in Montreal) had successfully gone that way the day before. And I was approved. I totally respect how hard it was to get in.

So you are, in effect, so close and yet seemingly so far from competing again. Can you see a season taking place?

Brown: I think it’s really hard to see that, even trying to be as optimistic as possible. At the end of the day, it’s about safety, about the well-being of the athletes, the coaches, the officials, the judges. You want to make sure everyone feels comfortable, and that it’s in their best interests, health-wise. As much as I want to compete and get out there in front of the fans, I want to do it in a safe manner. There’s no reason to cut corners right now.

What kind of shape are you in now?

Brown: Decent shape, but I would need at least a month of training before I felt I could run a full-out free program, start to finish, without collapsing.

At the end of last season, after several up-and-down or simply disappointing seasons, your performances were a more mature version of the Jason Brown from 2014 and 2015, the skater who had made the 2014 Olympic team with an incandescent free skate, won the 2015 U.S. title and had his best finish (fourth) at Worlds. Where does that put you now?

Brown: It was an incredible end of the year or, as I look at, of the bloc of time I have been in Canada (since June 2018). Brian and Tracy always talk about this 18-month period, the time needed to adapt to new technique and be comfortable with the coaches. It really was a struggle, even in my second season with them. It finally came together after those 18 months.

The way those last two events (nationals and Four Continents) went was a proud moment for me and my coaches. At nationals, I cried in a kiss-and-cry for the first time ever, because it had been such an emotional journey. Then my going to Four Continents a week later and backing it up, so it wasn’t, “Oh, nationals was a one-time fluke.” The technique is in me now.

The one thing that nags me was popping the quad attempt (at Four Continents). But I had the mentality of “I’ll get it at worlds.” Not having the chance is my only regret.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 11 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com/figure-skating.

MORE: U.S. figure skating champion Alysa Liu changes coaches

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